In case you haven't heard, oft-suspended Islanders forward Chris Simon is back practicing with the team as of yesterday, is eligible to return February 21st against Tampa and will do so immediately, according to coach Ted Nolan:
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"I can't see why he wouldn't get right back in the lineup. Other guys get injured and then get right back in. I don't see this as any different."
Well, I do.
Look, I didn't have a problem with the Islanders supporting one of their own when Simon was most recently suspended for stomping the leg of Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruuttu with his skate blade back in December. In fact, I supported the decision by Isles brass to help Simon seek the counseling he needed. I also, however, did not expect that he'd ever be back with the team.
For starters, it's not as though he provides a whole hell of a lot in terms of production. (His whole goal and 2 assists in 26 games this season are virtually negligible.) Moreover, his presence on the ice is not only cause for concern because of the who-knows-what-might-happen-next factor but, worse yet, when he does return, he's likely to be taking valuable ice time away from one of Franz Nielsen, Blake Comeau, Jeff Tambellini or Sean Bergenheim - youngsters who, at this point, deserve the opportunity to show the Islanders what they can bring to the team. (Comeau and Bergenheim, in my opinion, have been excellent - especially lately - while Tambellini and Nielsen seem to be putting it together a bit more as of late.)
As my fellow NYI Blog Boxer Ken Rosenblatt (known as <a href=http://islandersoutsider.blogspot.com/>"The Outsider"</a> in the blogosphere) and I discussed at the January 19th Flyers/Isles contest, the return of Chris Simon could be likened to the much-needed, highly anticipated renovation of the Nassau Coliseum, as would be provided by the proposed <a href=http://www.lighthouseli.com>Lighthouse at Long Island project</a>, and as only the actual <a href=http://lighthouseli.com/media/Lighthouse_111407.wmv>Lighthouse at Long Island promotional video</a> itself, at one particular point, so clearly describes:
"This aging player needs to be replaced by a new rising star."
The Coliseum needs to be replaced by a state-of-the-art facility.
Simon may have already been replaced by that new rising star.
Let's not go backwards here!
Let's face it, Simon no longer brings a whole lot to the team in terms of on-ice production. Suspensions aside, I'd still argue this point until I was blue in the face. His absence opened up a roster spot for Comeau who, by all accounts, has been nothing short of sensational and is only getting better. And now, while Simon's return may not force Comeau out of the lineup, another youngster is sure to find his way back to Bridgeport to make room for an aging problem child who is probably better off moving on with his life outside of the game of hockey (as a player anyway, at the very least.)
The worst part about all of this is that the Islanders official web site is actually <a href=http://islanders.nhl.com/team/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=353342>celebrating Simon's return</a> to the club. I may be going so far here as to be risking my status as a Blog Boxer and I certainly mean no disrespect to the powers that be at islanders.com (surely they are only following PR protocol) but they're making it seem like Simon's battled back from a career-threatening injury or illness or something, rather than his eighth career suspension (one that was absolutely avoidable, no less) and that irks me more than just a little. Aside from the fact that the resumption of his moribund career does next-to-nothing to improve a struggling team, I find it to be a bit much to actually portray his return as a celebration complete with "Welcome Back, Chris!" signs and spin-laden articles chock full of how much he's learned from his mistakes (again) and how he's so happy to be back playing hockey. Forgive me if I don't get all teary-eyed when Simon is announced before his first game back.
While I did think his latest punishment should have been more severe, I never said Chris Simon should be banned from the NHL forever. Part of my reasoning there was because I thought it possible that the Isles might cut ties with Simon as a player, help him take care of his off-ice personal issues and bid him farewell thereafter. That certainly would have been considered action that was noble enough to accept by all and never could have been construed as the organization abandoning one of its own. I also did not think (and do not think) that any other team would be interested in his services at that point. Essentially, in my eyes, the problem could have taken care of itself.
But now the Islanders are seemingly welcoming Chris Simon back with more than open arms. To them, it's an occasion worthy of congratulations, celebrations and well-wishings.
Grit. Heart. Character.
So says the banner at the top of newyorkislanders.com - the team's slogan for the year.
grit (n) - fortitude and determination [syn: backbone]
heart (n) - courage, resolution, fortitude
character (n) - qualities of courage or integrity
Yet only a few clicks away, we have the celebration of the return of a player who, to me anyway, shows none of the above.
I'm pretty comfortable in my assumption that I'm not the only hockey fan - and not the only Islanders fan either - who feels just this way and is utterly disappointed.
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